Penguins training camp figures to be much different for Brandon Sutter this season, although it comes with a different set of questions.
His first camp after he arrived in a June 2012 trade with Carolina was a rushed cluster of six days in January that included no preseason games because the NHL lockout disrupted and shortened the schedule.
His initiation stretched into the season, when he went the first seven games with one assist and no goals.
He finished with 11 goals, 19 points in 48 games.
"It was a bit tricky, getting used to the systems," said Sutter, 24, recently. "The only way to do it is in a game. No matter how much you practice it, you have to go out and do it.
"The first few weeks I felt like I was a bit lost. I just couldn't really find my game. After about a month or six weeks, you kind of get into it and a little bit better. This year, there's no excuse for that. I'll be ready to go early."
The Penguins report for camp and physical testing Wednesday with the first practices scheduled Thursday.
While it will be more familiar for Sutter, the third-line center will face some adjustments. He will see new wingers any time he looks left or right.
Last season, he played on a line primary with Matt Cooke, Tyler Kennedy and, late in the season, Brenden Morrow. All three are gone.
"There are always new faces, and [three of the forwards who left] just happened to be some guys I played with last year," Sutter said.
"I'll have to find some chemistry with someone early and find someone to try and stick with all year."
Sutter has been in town about a week skating with teammates most days, but those are informal sessions with no coaches at the helm.
Until the Penguins begin having structured camp practices, scrimmages and preseason games, Sutter won't know for sure which wingers might work on his line. The list is long.
"It's definitely got to be guys who can play at both ends of the rink," Sutter said. "Last year, playing with [Cooke] and [Kennedy], or [Cooke] and Morrow, they're all guys that can play both ends of the rink.
"We were playing against some good lines some nights. You have to be able to have that two-way game."
While there could be a prospect or new signee competing for the spots, Sutter knows enough about the returning players in the running to know that his idea of a job description doesn't narrow the field significantly.
"I don't know who it will be yet, but I think all those guys in our bottom-six forwards are capable of playing at both ends of the rink," he said. "It will be interesting to see who I end up with."penguins
For much more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.